2018 was a year of firsts for me. I started the year off having just received my first couple of payments for writing online clickbait for The Richest. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever been paid for writing, but it was pretty close, and even if the work seemed cheap the knowledge that thousands of people were out there reading my words had a profound effect on me. With money coming in two times a month and eyeballs constantly on my writing, I felt for the first time in my life that I could honestly call myself a professional writer. It wasn’t so much about the amount of money I was making – It was about the mindset. Suddenly I started thinking to myself, maybe I can actually do this.
Professionally, 2018 included three significant landmarks. First, I began writing for my favourite Raptors fan site in January. It wasn’t a paying job, but getting my name out there as an amateur sportswriter helped connect me with the local basketball community and offered a step towards a career I’d always dreamed of. Second, in April, I got my first piece of short fiction published, in Blank Spaces. It was a small magazine, but seeing my name in print for the first time as a fiction author helped me further work through my impostor syndrome. And finally, in September, came the highlight of my year – the day that Running The Point won the 2018 Story Shares Diversity Award. Not only was it my first time getting PAID for a work of fiction – it was also my first writing prize and my first opportunity to see my name on the cover of a published book.
There were other milestones, of course. In 2018 I created my first personal website – this one – and appeared on my first podcast. 2018 was also my first full year of living with a significant other – a harrowing experience that somehow didn’t completely destroy our relationship but did lead to us agreeing that we need a bit more space in 2019. Over the course of the year I also reached out to two important girls from my past. Those interactions weren’t necessarily meaningful on their own, but sometimes it’s worth mending some fences just to move on with life without lingering on past hurts. It’s part of being a real adult, I guess.
And then there were the hiccups. The fact I spent most of the year recovering from a concussion suffered in November 2017, a recovery that is in some ways now complete but maybe in other ways never will be. There was the fact that I wasn’t able to gain traction at paying publications or significantly raise my online profile in an industry where exposure is everything. Or the cold, hard realization that while my first year of freelancing has been exciting, it’s hard to ignore the fact that my bank account has been shrinking faster than it’s been growing.
All in all, 2018 was a year to build on – a year that offered a launching point for a career, if not an arrival. A year ago today, I wrote five resolutions for 2018 over at the Sleeping With The Material World blog. Here’s a quick look back at them and five more resolutions for 2019:
1. Find a steady writing gig
Success. I don’t know that I’ve necessarily found a steady writing gig in the way that I imagined, but between the work I’m doing for Irwin’s Industrial Safety and the work I’m doing on the book, my plate is pretty full these days.
2. Quit my restaurant job
Success. I quit my job right before Easter and I couldn’t be happier that I did. Money has been tight and there may be another wage job in my future somewhere, but I definitely needed to unlock the chain that was around my neck.
3. Get Sleeping With The Material World into the hands of a publisher
Fail. Priorities have changed as the book has evolved and we’re now focused on finishing the manuscript before submitting it. Of course, a year ago I would have said that I expected to have finished the manuscript by now. So – I can’t say I’m thrilled about where I'm at with this one.
4. Eat better
Success. I’m still not eating especially healthy, but not working nights has freed me up to cook dinner quite a bit more. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but the takeout nights have gone down from about 6 per week to about 3 per week. Baby steps, right?
5. Spend more time with friends
Fail. I’m going to give myself a fail on this because I still feel like I haven’t reconnected with a lot of old friends in the way I planned to. Then again, at this stage my life it’s more important to look forward and worry about making new friends rather than worrying about the people who may or may not have been there for me in the past.
So, how about 2019 resolutions?
1. Finish the SWTMW manuscript
2. Find a larger publisher for Running The Point
3. Publish a paid article on a major(ish) magazine or website
4. Raise my online profile
5. Become more comfortable conducting interviews
Well, here it is - my very own website.
For a writer, starting a website is more like a first step than a final step, but it feels like it's been a long time coming just to get to this stage.
Over the past year, I've slowly moved away from a life in the restaurant industry to begin pursuing a career as a freelance writer. In April, I quit my job supervising a burger joint and began to work in earnest on the book project I have been working on with Sarah Jackman since the beginning of 2017, Sleeping With The Material World. Despite spending my whole life dreaming of being an author and going to creative writing school, the prospect of writing a full-length book was daunting. I've always been more inclined to start a project than finish it, and the various novels I've attempted to write - from the mystery story I started when I was ten years old to the existential mess of a book I started in my novel-writing class in my final year at university - have all petered out somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 words.
Sleeping With The Material World has been a chore, but despite some hiccups I've stuck with it. We now have about 2/3 of a completed manuscript (along with a blog) and hope to get a full draft completed early in the new year. But true to form, I haven't been able to keep my mind focused entirely on one task, and when an email showed up in my mailbox in early May offering a $3,000 prize for a kid's story, I went for the carrot. I started writing some gibberish about the back alley behind my childhood home where I used to wander, wondering what kind of secrets might be hidden in the litter. After several months of writing, re-writing, editing and revising, those scribbles transformed into a 10,000-word story about a 12-year-old Mexican boy who loves basketball. I submitted the story to the contest, and lo and behold - it won the prize!
Unfortunately, as I soon discovered, winning a prize is a great first step to success (and to a starving writer, the rent money doesn't hurt), but success doesn't come all wrapped up with a bow. My book was published, but how were people going to find it? The writing was easy - the marketing and publicity, that was the hard part! Even though I've recently started to do some work in marketing, the idea of marketing a book is still foreign to me. Gaining publicity for your first book is like interviewing for your first job - book reviewers only want to review books with potential sales numbers, but getting sales is contingent on publicity and reviews. Not unlike basketball, it's easy to look at the system and say it's rigged in favour of the tallest players.
So I created this site as a first step - if not a final step - towards developing an online presence for Running The Point, Sleeping With The Material World, and any other projects which might come my way. (By the way, it's no accident that I'm starting this website right before Christmas - Running The Point is the perfect Christmas gift for the kid in anyone's life who loves basketball but hates reading.) So welcome to my site! Poke around and stay awhile, and if you have any questions about my books, projects or services, throw me a line over at the contact page.